Saturday, 15 May 1999
Corporate Vibes, 15 May 1999
QTC, STC and Melbourne Theatre Company
at The Playhouse until June 19, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
David Williamson, in his comedies, has systematically worked his way through social issues, stuffing his characters overfull with societal problems. It was only a matter of time before he reached corporate Australia which cries out for social satire.
Corporate Vibes, about the heartlessness of the corporations, is a perky if insubstantial comedy with lots of laughs and jibes at the expense of business stereotypes.
If you have been on the inside of a corporate environment recently, you will know that it is generally an unhealthy blend of hysteria and tedium. When the work involves marketing the boss's completely unmarketable product, staff either smile and lie or cry, "The emperor has no clothes."
Hype and bulldust, in addition to a fair smattering of pure terror of Sam, are the currency in Sam Siddons apartment construction company.
Sam (William Zappa) is a corporate thug who has made and lost millions from housing developments. His latest monstrosity is not selling because it is ugly and expensive. Sam blames his staff.
His CEO Michael (Andrew McFarlane) is a cowardly Yes Man, Angela (Caroline Kennison) his award-winning architect a brusque single mum. Megan (Olivia Pigeot), his marketing manager, just wants to be loved and his sales manager Brian (Tony Llewellyn-Jones) hates the decor in the apartments.
Enter Deborah, (Lydia Miller) "malevolent do-gooder", aboriginal Human Resources Manager who thinks venting feelings and finding their "song" will improve staff communication. She is too naive to realise that company directors want staff development to improve productivity. They don't care about people's feelings.
The plot is thin, predictable and lacking in any depth or subtlety but this serves the comedy. Robyn Nevin's direction is clever, stylish and stylised and provides a welcome edge that is not in the text itself. The sleek boardroom design (Stephen Curtis) is suitably grim and cold.
Zappa is particularly good as the bellowing bull, Sam. The play does not allow actors any sensitive moments but Lllewllyn-Jones milks the jokes for all he can. Kennison and McFarlane also provide strong comic support. There is rather too much unnecessary shouting for the Playhouse in the first act, particularly from Miller, but the second act is far better all round.